Help a neophyte

I’m looking into getting solar on our house; our electric bill is easily 125-150/month in winter and 300-350 in summer. We have a nice 5/12 pitch roof that faces almost perfectly south. I need to know what questions to ask an installer. What types of PV panels should I look at getting? What is the duration of these products? Cost of a typical residential system, I‘ve heard that residential homes typically average 3-4 Kw systems…

I see that PG&E here in northern California has some rebates along w/ the state, confusing program to figure out that’s forsure.

Any company’s products superior to others? I’ve read some about Nanosolar, Miasole, and Solaria but again I’m neophyte and I’m having trouble finding my way through this.


  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Help a neophyte

    that depends on what your goals are. btw, the numbers you listed are meaningless unless denoting what they are for, money or kwh. are you looking for just supplementing your power or supplying all of it? all of it would be very large and expensive. are you looking to have grid tie battery backup or just straight grid tie?
    in any case more reading here on the forum is a good idea to get yourself more familiarized with the subject and you may want to try conservation methods regardless if you go solar or not as it is easier and cheaper to save a watt of power than to generate a watt of power.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Help a neophyte

    Those are $ costs for our current energy. I’m not looking to be totally off the grid just find where the cost efficiency and reduction in cost makes it worth while economically. I'm not thinking about battery capabilities at this time.

    I’ve found info that the industry standard for PV longevity is about 20-25 years. They still work just less efficient.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,108 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Help a neophyte

    A quick note:

    Congrats on wanting to get into RE. Remember however that your cheapest RE $$ is conservation. Look at all your loads and figure out which you can reduce without loosing quality of life. Every $$ spent on conversation will save several in RE costs.

  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Help a neophyte

    I'll second the conservation first approach.

    Our bills were more than you quoted but here in Fl the credit up to $20K seemed quite attractive. However, once I got a bona fide estimate the bottom line was that a 3KW grid-tie with battery back up would have a cost net of all credits and incentives would be over $15K.

    This would yield about 19% offset of my present load. I love gadgets and the RE aspects were appealing but the boss stepped in and said it just doesn't make sense. I have to agree. So...we're looking at mass replacement with CFL, replacing old fridge and freezer with energy star combo unit. Oh yes, we also replaced a classic heat pump HVAC with a geothermal HVAC.

    Don't know how it will all work out but demand reduction is the more cost effective first choice.

  • Ralph DayRalph Day Solar Expert Posts: 872 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Help a neophyte


    If you're really game and going to do the conservation route, it would be a great benefit to the forum if you could document everything. Costs of power (and amounts used per appliance), replacement power usages, total power savings etc. Just think how it would be self explanatory for someone like you to read how much conservation works.

    Our hosehold went from a daily consumption of about 22kwh per day down to about 7...conservation, solar domestic hot water, the whole shebang, but we didn't really document it:cool:.

    Just a thought, to add to the numerous ones and decisions going on while bringing the consumption numbers down.

  • n3qikn3qik Solar Expert Posts: 741 ✭✭
    Re: Help a neophyte

    Here is what I did:

    Click on the right pic to see the chart.
  • RoderickRoderick Solar Expert Posts: 253 ✭✭
    Re: Help a neophyte

    Sounds like you're a good candidate for solar. Aside from the conservation,

    - Get several bids from professional installers.
    - Don't be pressured into signing on the spot, make sure you get a written bid from each, itemizing the exact equipment they propose.
    - If you feel uncomfortable with the installer, that's a red flag. If they don't seem to be listening to you, or seem to be evasive, you probably want to go with someone else.
    - Walk the roof with them, and ask them to explain what they're doing when assessing your situation.
    - Ask how they plan to mount the system. Will they need to tear off the roof?
    - Ask what costs are not included in their bid. Will they arrange for all necessary permits?
    - Be wary of any installer that demands full payment up front. Partial payments at completion milestones are ok.
    - Ask if they will take the California rebate in lieu of your payment.
    - Generally, crystalline silicon panels are roughly the same. But when you find out what model they intend to install, come back here for opinions.
    - Ask about options for monitoring the inverter via computer, if this interests you. Not all inverters are good at this, sometimes you have to jump through hoops or buy something extra.

    Our experience:

Sign In or Register to comment.